Susan Gerbic: Vampire Slayer

Members of the “Boston Direct Action Project,” dressed as vampires to impersonate public relations associates of the World Bank, Washington DC. Via Wikimedia.

Susan Gerbic at The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry has put out the call for all vampire slayers. Does this mean that we should all stock up on garlic, holy water and get some really high collars for our shirts? No, this type of vampire is not going to directly consume our blood. But, in my opinion, the type of vampire she refers to is more evil and harder to metaphorically kill than the traditional vampire. It is called a grief vampire, a.k.a. a psychic medium. This type of vampire feeds off of the grief of surviving family members and the natural fear of death that we all have. The E! Television Network is premiering and promoting a new show called Hollywood Medium with Tyler Henry. It’s similar to The Long Island Medium Theresa Caputo, whose own show is off the air currently and facing litigation due to claims of fraud. I find those fraud charges ironic, since cold reading itself is merely a sham party trick, even without the cheating methods allegedly used by Caputo. I am personally disgusted by the displays on these shows. Susan Gerbic feels, as do I, that we need to nip these shows “in the bud,” for obvious reasons.

I have no problem at all with cold readings done as a performance for entertainment purposes. Hollywood Medium is appearing on the E! Channel and not the Science Channel. Yet E! is not disclaiming it as entertainment only; rather, it promotes the “psychic, clairvoyant” Tyler Henry, saying:

The star of E!’s Hollywood Medium With Tyler Henry is a medium, a clairvoyant and a medical intuitive. The combination of this exceptional trio of skills allows him to feel, understand and communicate accurate messages to his celebrity clients from their deceased friends and family members on the other side.

If you put a disclaimer on your website/show/social media claiming that this is for entertainment purposes only, I’d dislike it but I wouldn’t object to it. Better yet, if you are like James Randi and you openly state that it is a performance art, I’d enjoy the performance. Tyler Henry and E! do none of these things. His performance is promoted as speaking to the dead. Compelling for many previous people making this claim show consistently that it’s a fake.

Harry Houdini. Via Wikimedia.

Why am I so confident? The evidence is frighteningly obvious. My favorite convincing argument against communicating with the afterlife was the great Harry Houdini. He spent most of his career trying to find a genuine spiritualist and yet repeatedly came up empty handed, drawing on his knowledge of stage magic and seeing through the obvious trickery at the core of the spiritualist routine. He famously promised that if there was any way to contact the living he would do so after he died. He gave his wife Bess a secret code phrase to know it was really him contacting her after death: “Rosabelle believe.” His wife tried seances and psychics for 10 years after his passing, yet not one ever uttered those words.

I, like Houdini, would love proof, or even some slight evidence, that my loved ones are waiting for me on the other side. I don’t let that deep desire to be reassured color my evaluation of mediums. Psychic mediums like John Edwards and the aforementioned Caputo have made a career off others’ grief, and they are not even good at doing cold readings. There is zero chance that they are actually speaking to the deceased. I expect nothing different from Mr. Henry.

Henry is a good looking young kid—probably very charismatic and most likely a true believer, based upon his biography. His bio has a variety of New-Age mumbo jumbo, the traditional energy claim, and a new category of apparent nonsense “medical intuitive.” I translate that to mean “medical guesser.” They define it as someone who

the innate ability to describe the cause of a physical or emotional condition through the perception or feeling of another’s energy, according to Martha Stewart. While performing a reading, Tyler can often physically sense the prior medical conditions of the spirits he is attempting to communicate with.

If Martha Stewart thinks it’s real… Well, there is nothing like an anecdote of pop icon, convicted of fraud, to bolster your evidence. I think this is clearly a new beat to an old song.

So why should we be incensed? Why call them grief vampires? They take individuals’ feelings of loss and use them as a prop to make money. In effect, they live off the grief of other people.

I think it is despicable for the E! and the performer to make money off of that sadness. It makes me sick to see a show that sells advertising space using a desperately grieving family that lost a small child. Although some would argue such a spectacle might help people cope with the colossal loss, I do not, especially if you’re charging them money, or, in the case of E!, selling advertisment time. They are truly grief vampires, sucking money off of the death of young children. It’s despicable, really horrifically despicable.

Members of the “Boston Direct Action Project,” dressed as vampires to impersonate public relations associates of the World Bank, Washington DC. Via Wikimedia.

What can we do to end this travesty? Skeptics everywhere unite! Make your displeasure known. Get out in front of this, write the E! Network—show your disdain. Teach your friends and family that cold reading is not psychic power. Share these posts on social media and get the word out. Kill this show before it becomes another halftime show at the Superbowl. Demand that no more grief vampires are trotted out to sell some wares. Together, we can stop the corporate sale of grief for money. Slay the vampire right in its lair.

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About Stephen Propatier

Stephen Propatier is a board certified acute care nurse practitioner specializing in spine and sports medicine. He is a member of the Society for Science Based Medicine.
This entry was posted in New Age, Paranormal, TV & Media and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Susan Gerbic: Vampire Slayer

  1. anne cameron says:

    Just saw this smiling twerp on Dr. Phil. He’s nineteen, been doing this since he was ten, and I’m sure HE believes he’s speaking to and with the dead. Personally, I think he’s on some planet other than this one. I wish we could do a better job in the here and now of letting others know we love them.

    The network should be sue’d for fraud.

  2. Susan Gerbic says:

    Thank you for this excellent take on the Grief Vampire world. Love the photos. Your 100% right, we need to “slay the vampire in its lair”

    • Swampwitch7 says:

      Susan: no mercy, no prisoners. Go for the kill shot for the fraud gurus and obliterate their poison from the media.

  3. Mark Edward says:

    Here we go again. Until something happens where these sorts of people suffer a major public law suit or go to jail for causing a suicide or other direct involvement in a catastrophe brought on by their bullshit, we can look forward to more “fuzzy sweater” or “boy (or girl) next door” clairvoyants making millions off the unwary. This one issue should indeed unite skeptics everywhere. To allow it to go on and on without consequence is abominable. Susan Gerbic is a stalwart fighter and the sole person I know who is taking constant action against what we both see as blatant criminality of the worst kind. Bravo to Susan and the others involved.

  4. Karen Hart says:

    Yay Susan!

  5. mudguts says:

    Its amasing how much of that old spiritualism and conspiracism from the turn of the 19th-20th century still is around..

    But then.. this is skeptoid.

    I enjoyed the old series of x-files (new not here yet) and especially millenium (ser one) from the same stable.

    Just goes to show.. one shouldnt take mythology too seriously. Some make a living talking about how they peer through pinched fingers..

  6. Catherine Atherton says:

    I remember a while back that Mr Dunning argued that it was all right for anyone, even (or especially) a skeptic, to offer a similar sort of “service” to the public, provided no harm is done in the process, on the grounds that people have a right to believe what they want, even if it is as mad as a lorry. The service he had in mind was that of offering medical advice, but the principle can apply, perhaps even more strongly, in this sort of case.

    His argument was, and I hope I have got this right, that if the customer is told to take some sugar-water or to use these healing stones or whatever, but also that it’s best to eat healthily and get as much exercise and fresh air as possible, and that it’s wise to follow the treatment recommended by a (real) doctor as well, then—what harm is done? Analogously, then, if he or she gets comfort from the process of consulting a soi-disant “psychic”, and learns thereby some ways of genuinely coping with their loss, even a little—what harm is done?

    Of course the “first do no harm” thing may not carry any weight with the usual scalliwags, narcissists, and sociopaths who usually go in for this sort of thing. So Mr Dunning thought we skeptics should take up the profession and give the customer the advice I’ve set out above—i.e. behave like a sensible person and go to a doctor, or, in this case, consult a therapist for a while and talk about your grief, or talk to your friends and family, or talk to God, in whom I personally don’t believe, at any rate in the ways the deity is standardly represented, but I am at least sure he/she/it won’t finger your wallet while you’re pouring out your grief, anger, loneliness, and bewilderment.

    I didn’t buy the argument. I don’t like deceiving people, beyond the usual thing about telling someone how well they seem, or what a lovely baby they have, or whatever, when actually they look a fright or the baby is best viewed in the reflection of a magic shield. I believe deception is a dangerous and an unethical basis for any relation, even a commercial one, between equals (so the Tooth Fairy, for example, is safe from me). But I’m more interested in what Mr Propatier, and others, think of it (if I have remembered it rightly; if I haven’t, apologies to all concerned).

    On a quite different topic: is it just me, or was Harry Houdini HOT?

  7. James Malnar says:

    E is entertainment, if you want to sue a network for fraud start with FOX news.

  8. Mac McCarthy says:

    Great work, Susan. Thank you for your hard work.

  9. Terry Macdonald says:

    I can’t STAND these lying sacks of excrement. Creeps like John Edward are no better than Peter Popoff!
    People of low character, so-called “psychics” like James Van Praag and Theresa Caputo, or here in the UK our own homegrown creeps the likes of Sally Morgan, the vomit-inducing Derek Acorah or that (now deceased!) horror Colin Fry (who would now be frying in Hell…if it existed!) are no better than Creationist snake oil salesmen the likes of Kent “Jailbird” Hovind, Ray “Bananaman” Cumfart and Kirk “Crockaduck” Cameron. ALL professional LIARS for MONEY! I know these creeps have no respect for their victims…but don’t they have any self respect?

  10. William J Granger says:

    I thought Martha Stewart was convicted of insider trading not fraud.

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